Sunday, January 14, 2018

How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall?

 Practicing for camp.

At left, Jiffy blueberry buckle cake (added cup of frozen blueberries horded from this summer, fresh nutmeg, cinnamon)  whipped up for breakfast here on "forbidden food" weekend.

My wife is in Palm Springs. It's in the desert. No fish. Desert.

Not my kind of place.

That's a 6" anodized baking round.
 Comes out pretty well. Butter knife for scale.
And, blueberries. It's great bear food for camp. Makes too much for one so I might have to share if any of my Michigan native black bears show up in camp. Will however be a camping hit for whoever shows up!

Might have to feed this and some scrambled eggs to Beargirl if I take here camping.

Now ... to talk the Ritz into using their kitchen because that's the sort of "roughing it" my wife likes. No complaints from me.

I love a bar with a selection of 21-year old scotches.

I'm tuning up for season. I pulled the gear out this morning and did an inventory check for trout.

This little 1492 1/2 Medalist has been hanging around for five years, unspooled.

It's a right-hand retrieve only and is the tail-end-charlie of my 3-wt appropriate reels. Cute as a kitten, though.

Well, hello daring!

I have a 3wt 3-piece Fenwick of the new S2 glass. I got it last winter for brookie brush-busting outings and then decided to push through and complete my 12 Streams of Michigan tour. I didn't do much dedicated 3 wt work. My loss.

2018 is my year-of-brookies given that I am going on my Fox and Two-Hearted dash this year.

I have a Galvan Brookie reel that I love on my Trout Bum. That rod is however both special and graphite. It isn't a rod to take dashing down fifty feet of slope. The Fenwick is such a rod.

I'm spooling the 1492 1/2 with about 30 feet of dacron and a  little mono-core running line (maybe 60 feet, maybe 70 ) to use with a 150 grain OPST head. I'll either mount the Galvan Brookie with the 3wt Wulff TT which is wonderful stuff for accurate, delicate presentation or I'll mount this 1492 1/2 with the OPST head for less delicate and longer-reach outings.

I'll admit it: a 4 wt is overkill for most of the fish I catch. There it is.

My big brown of the year was just shy of 14". I caught a bigger brookie as the first fish of the '17 season. Neither of those fish would be unplayable in any sporting sense on this Fenwick 3wt.

Sure, I might not be able to horse a 14" brown out of cover with a glass 3 wt. Better than 50-50 I can. Even if I fail, that's a problem I'll take any day.

I use single-handed Spey techniques for most of my fishing, now. It the mechanism to use when slowing stepping through a "tree-tunnel" and you still want to reach the nice cut alongside the far bank. Adding an OPST head system for my lightweight work is just putting another tool in the tool box.

I'm a wet fly guy most of the time. If I were a dry fly guy most of the time, I'd stick with just the Triangle Taper and my hand-tied leaders.

I'm not.

I'll let you know how spring training goes with the light heads.

I have to go and test my dirty-rice made with smoked turkey sausage.  I'm training for all aspects of the season including the critical "chow time." [ UPDATE: I used a popular box mix for the dirty rice base. Huge mistake. 500 mg of sodium per cup. Tasted like a salt bowl. Low grade dog food .... with added salt. As always, shortcuts usually turn out not to be. ]

Hope your training includes a plan for "tasty."


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Monday Night Fly

Jim and Brian tying steelhead flies. Lauren in the background talking to another local business owner. Ed is hidden by Brian who is looking at one of his feathers.

We tie on Monday nights at the Beer Grotto in Dexter. It's a way to pass the winter.

Might as well be called the bear grotto.

Wednesday night in the spring will see "casting night" at some local retention ponds. It isn't the fine facilities of the  San Francisco Casting Club but then it's Dexter, Michigan. Snake roll, single spey, the parachute, the steeple. It's a way to get some folks out with rods in their hands and maybe practice some skills that matter in the sorts of places we fish around here.

The all-purpose early-season twin-hackled Jingler.

This Jingler has a sliver of closed-cell foam lashed to its back then wrapped with pheasant tail. Should float all day in dry-dropper rigs.

I tied these Monday night on size 13 and size 15 barbless hooks. This early season version is drab though the rust soft-hackle does a nice job. I'll dub olive and light olive bodied versions here shortly as well as a coachman style afterbody.

We'll see. I tied too few of these last year. I'll tie five dozen this winter.

Show and tell. The is the box of my new 4" Bougle. Nice box.
  The case and reel. Nice leather. I'm going to have Chris Lantzy whip up a utility leather case. The case that came with it is really nice but I want more padding. Chris does a great job with the padding.

Late picture of some of my resident turkey at the "flock block" during Christmas week.

Practicing for season. Hammy-Cheesy biscuits I made for breakfast Sunday. Cathead biscuits with half a cup of shredded Tillamook cheddar and a cup of ham toasted in a skillet added at the final mix.

Even Beargirl thought these were pretty good. At camp, they'll be a huge hit. It's a ham sandwich breakfast style. Goes great with coffee.

Biscuit porn.

Fifty here on Thursday. We'll see if any of the ice on the Huron breaks. My bet is it won't.


Thursday, January 4, 2018

Dreams May Come

At left, dreams.

Again tonight the temperatures will be below zero. What we have as anglers are those dreams we've been saving all season long.

I'll spend tonight with the echo of fat raindrops on my tent fly from last May while I'm under a down comforter and a couple quilts. Maybe one of my wife's heater cats. Probably.

It's what I've got.

I've not tied a fly in three weeks. I've made a tentative schedule for travel next season. I've picked-up my new 4" Bougle from the local which will replace my Medalist shown at left. I need to cut new leather for the drag and somehow a Bougle seemed an easier solution this year.

The Cascapedia -- trout sized -- will be here before spring.

I had a fishing buddy who also has been my writing partner for the last several years. Engineer. Recreational fly fisher. Writer. Novelist.

He died before Christmas following a very short illness. Alarmingly short, actually.

I drank the last round he'll ever buy me here on Christmas eve: whiskey he'd brought back from a summer trip to Ireland. Seemed the time so I dispatched a sampler bottle.

I don't know how much time I might have left myself. Who does?

I took some of that angst and put it into legacy gear that will cause knife-fights at the wake three generations on.

I'm swinging for trout this year. I'll mount the Bougle for trout on a #3 10'6" glass by Echo and -- with different heads -- mount it on a #7 11'6" Echo as well for steelhead.  The reel is a little heavy but a couple ounces probably won't do too much to me. I'm not a "gram weenie" in most things.

I started back with the pen after a few weeks off  a couple nights ago. I'll start tying flies for the Driftless on Monday night.

Life goes on. A good bit of it goes on in our dreams. Maybe the most meaningful parts go on in our dreams.

I'll let you know for sure when I too am but a stray smile on a character you see once in a while in your dreams. If I wink and raise a glass, you'll be sure and remember why.


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Do Trout Celebrate Christmas?

AT left, this evening's eggnog. If you add the right amount of rum, you get the wonderful marbling effect when the emulsion breaks.

I frequently drink my eggs raw. I like eggnog. Go figure.

I'm writing these days. I should be fishing now that it is after Thanksgiving but I haven't made it out. I'm burning through the ink.

Tonight I was at my local fly shop for a talk on modern tech clothing (I wear wool. Who would have guessed?)

The talk centered around "better than wool" and "it breathes."

I wear a lot of wool in the field. The Patagonia stuff I have is nice but so is the twenty year old wool union suit.

I like wool pants. Wool shirts. Wool sweaters.

Leave it to a Scotsman to clone a sheep.

I'm looking at the Olympic Peninsula for a spring outing with the Amber Liquid guys.

What could go wrong?

Bears. (Mountain) Lions. Basic navigation. Booze.

Pretty much covers it.

I have new heads coming in. There's a new 4" Bougle should be here by Christmas. A Cascapedia (4/5) trout reel on order.

Yep, I'm spending treasure on fishing gear. Sue me.

A writing partner and trout buddy has cancer.

You know in the movies when someone looks absolutely normal and is told "you have cancer" and the audience is stunned because she's so beautiful and ... ?

Yea. This isn't like that.

I'm buying some lifetime gear so my buddies can use it when I'm gone and if it takes me another thirty years to fade away, I get to use it.

I think of Warren Zevon every now and again. Mostly, when I'm having a sandwich.

More writing to do. I've got to get at it.


Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Four Anglers

Above, rainbow trout from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service as hosted on wikicommons. Copyright free image.

There are four anglers one meets with a fly rod.

The Infrequent Angler.

The infrequent angler is solely in the purview of recreation. We meet a great many of this sort. Unfortunately, we meet them in fleeting acquaintance too often. Mayflies share a great many traits with these folks.

The infrequent angler is usually recognized by new gear, squeaky boots, and a single-minded desire to wade directly into the water most likely to hold fish. They usually have a poor sense of space wandering through water they ought not to wander into, wading past anglers they should walk around, and crowding holes that "look fishy." 

They mean well. They false cast too damn often. 

Usually, they take to reasoned instruction like fly to flypaper though caution is needed lest the pursuit of fly fishing seem too much a mechanical process (tab A into slot B and ... trout!). You have to give them space for the mysticism of the water to take hold.

Sometimes it doesn't take hold.

Infrequent anglers are also full of the the enthusiasm everyone finds themselves envying at a later period of their angling career, even if the admission only comes under the influence of a substantial amount of whiskey.  

The call of the infrequent angler is known far and wide: 
"Hey, I got one!"  
Splashing and gregarious photo-ops follow sometimes to the fish's detriment.

I still love these guys though I've created too few. 

Fishing is a contact sport to infrequent anglers. Bigger is better and a fish is a joy. 

Isn't it always?

The Frequent Angler.

I, for example, am a frequent angler. 

Unfortunately, the label has too little to do with the presence of fish in landing net.

The frequent angler reads the trade literature. They cover the casts and techniques and can discuss the merits of a French leader on a ten foot four weight with a reasonably stiff tip. They can spell O.P.S.T and understand steelheaders as a special sub-culture of the sport who may or may not be expecting a fish on the line at any point in the season. 

The frequent angler considers the match-the-hatch and the presentation bias much as denominations of the protestant faith where, after all, isn't there a common end-goal?  Dry fly purists rate somewhere towards Catholicism. 

Wet-fly soft-hackle addicts? Welcome to temple! Mazel tov!

While we're on it, the frequent angler may proselytize angling as a near-religion. The fishing is an excuse to do something out of the day-to-day humdrum existence. 

It becomes a social bias and discriminator of affiliations leading to the spousal cocktail party opening question of "do you fly fish?" 

Knowing wives commiserate frequently with the one telling the other what a Bougle actually cost instead of what the husband said it cost. 

The "frequent" part of the label refers either to: (1) the rate of an individual's appearance in fly shops fondling gear; (2) the number of times "fishing" might come up in social conversation; (3) the occurrence of fishing related publications arriving in the mailbox or (4) all of the above.

Yes, there is an uptick in the number of fishing excursions of the frequent angler over the infrequent; but, fishing itself is merely an endgame whose anticipation is savored much as one might stretch the anticipation of an upcoming extravagant vacation they might not quite be able to afford. 

The call of the frequent angler is widely varied by geography and various seasonal factors but might be generalized as:
"Have you read Marinaro's In the Ring of the Rise?"
The Occasional Angler.

At the pinnacle of  recreational angling lives the occasional angler. The term comes from the west of my youth where severe understatement is a rule and is much a part of speech as the rhyme might be to a cockney cant. 

This individual is the one about whom it can be said "they can occasionally catch a trout ... out of a shallow mud puddle on a moonless night." These are anglers whom we mere mortals deign to imitate.

Unfortunately, the mass of internalized knowledge and experience --usually originating on several continents--from pursuing all manner of game-fish results in an unnatural sixth-sense about where, when, and what to fish. It is almost unfathomable as a science to the new angler.

Exchanges with them tend to be somehow exotic as if in a Tokyo whorehouse whose doorman has to recognize your friend only by face. Where else can you find a girl who will read German poetry all night wearing a Kimono revealing nothing but a smile with a ready willingness to pause in order to refill a masu  (that's a portioned sake cup for you old-school sinners)?  

Yes, you pay for her to read the German. No, you don't understand it at the time either.

The point here is that exchanges with occasional anglers can be surreal to the uninitiated.

"Hey, I just got this H2 lightening rod that'll cast a whole line in the lot over there. Want to try it?" 
"A whole line? Impressive. I'll just keep my Garrison here. Your rod might ruin me for the one just 20' away."
My favorite response from an occasional angler is the time I called over after a fellow I knew who hooked four fish in as many casts to ask "What fly are you using?"

The answer?
"I'm using the one that looks like what the trout are eating."
We went to the river together and the fellow had four flies on his hatband. That's it. No box. No bag. No net down a wading belt. A six weight and four flies on a sun-rotted Bailey hat. Kicked. My. Ass.

Of course, he wasn't even in the game I was playing. No point.

The Commercial Angler.

The fly shop owner, guide, instructor, boat builder, outdoor writer, or rod artisan. These sort of folks feed their family from the water. They're not messing around.

They're not recreational anglers any more. Sure, they love to fish. Tiger probably will say he still loves golf but on the course, you are never playing the same game he is. Not. Even. Close.

The game to the commercial angler usual has nothing to do about putting fish on the end of their line. They're so good, they can put fish on the end of your line even when you're not aware they're doing it.

I can't speak to the days and years on the water it takes to get the observational skill of the commercial angler.

Fish with one of these fellows socially and they'll say things you won't understand at the time.

"Wow, he almost closed on that one. Try that cast again and see if he take this time but slow down after every third strip."
You find yourself polishing your polarized lenses and looking through them queerly suspecting something amiss with the 3dx5 SuperClear coating this brand swears makes all the difference.

We've seen this most of the time when getting a new skill from a guide.

They'll tell you something like "Roll it into the foam line then count two-bugga-bugga after the indicator makes a half twist."

We look at them wondering what language that might be. We try the technique, hesitatingly. No joy.

"Here-- like this," they say taking our rod. "Right there, see that? That was the fish."

Blank stare.

"I'll do it again, slower," comes the assurance the guide offers and ... fish on. He'll then flick it off with a wrist move and presents the rod back to you.

"Like that," he says. Increasingly, she'll say it. Sometimes they smile sheepishly if they know you've paid a good used BMW in guide fees through your lifetime.


Like that.

We've all got places to go, just like the guys in the jet boats. I've an uncle that use to laugh at the jet boat guys.

"Where does a guy in a boat go?" he'd ask.

"I don't know," I'd say.

"Somewhere else," came the reply. Often, it came with a fish on the line.

I like days on the water best. Sent a buddy off to the coast this weekend. Probably won't get to spend very many more days on the water with him. Time. Distance.

Makes the days we enjoyed together special. At least he knows he likes water days too, now.

That's something.


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Apple Bread, Tea, Sunday Evening

At left, fresh cup of tea, apple bread (think banana bread but with cinnamon and apples covered by a streusel topping) from my local cider mill, and prose.

I'm at the ink but it is a good night here. First real snow of the year this morning. We've had fall flurries but it is now working up to being serious about winter.

I got some new cdc today to try some flymphs tomorrow night at the grotto. There are some beautiful cdc spiders over at the Small Stream Reflections blog (link at right)  and that got me thinking about my early season flymphs.

I like cdc. I like how it moves in the water.

I have an idea for my early season using a parachute-style pheasant tail nymph.

My first thought driving down the road was that it was a stupid idea. I tie flymphs and fish them subsurface to indicate the larval stages between nymph and fly. I'm well in the water column with these "lures." That's how I've thought of them.

Cripples, drowned emergers, stillborn, and the other surface dwelling non-dun? I use a thick bodied soft hackle sometimes with a drop of floatant.

A nymph -- a subsurface imitation-- as an early season indicator? A post on a nymph?

I need something other than a big bushy dry as the early season/early day partner on a dry-dropper. So, I look it up.

Gary Borger has an example on his blog from 2012 (here) of a parachute pheasant tail nymph that isn't exactly what I am after but which contains a good recommendation. The professor states his parachute pheasant tail out performs any other imitation during Baetis hatches.

Sounds like my entire spring -- except for the "out perform" part, of course. I always feel I have to work very hard for cool spring trout. Opener was different last year with a nice warm spring afternoon before the cool spring deluge that followed the next day.

Right in my wheelhouse.

Hmm, here's a fellow whose books I own who fishes a parachute flymph and says positive things about it. Also, the PTN is one of my favorites. I tie them with greater precision than a hare's ear so there's that.

Time to smash together a buoyant, upright floating, white posted PTN flymph with some cdc feathers for the motive attraction.

I don't feel like a complete idiot now.

Wait until I post some pictures. You can laugh then. Luckily, trout enjoy being amused by my efforts. My flies are ... beguiling.

Tomorrow night flies. Tonight prose, tea, and apple bread.


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Brook Trout of Unusual Size (B.T.O.U.S.)

Alright, I'll admit it is a Northern Pike as crafted by Robert W. Hines for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and therefor in the public domain as hosted on wikicommons.

R.O.U.S. => rodents of unusual size from The Princess Bride  published in 1973 by Harcout Brace as written by  William Goldman.

A buddy I'm going fishing with casually sentd me a picture of a 17" brookie this morning. Just another fish caught. Meh. [ Let's clarify: he's not a recreational angler. You'd say he was squarely in the "commercial"  category.]

Of course, like most of you I had to wait until I had my glasses, a proper monitor, and a couple cups of coffee to look at the snap.

It's a fish. You've seen them before.

The thing is, we get stuck on size as anglers. We drool over large fish.

I don't give a damn when I'm actually fishing if it is a 4" brookie or a 16" brown. I'm delighted for action.

When pictures come out, it is as if I'm in fifth grade and found a Playboy  [ okay, it was the interview with Jimmy Carter issue. They were everywhere]. Only then, I knew those girls didn't actually exist.

Show me a picture of a 24" brown out of a drainage canal and I believe I can go right out here to the ditch and get one myself.

It's a size thing. Pictures of big fish turn something off in our brains. Mostly, they turn off the spending control part of the amygdala.

I stopped by the fly shop today and made a payment on something beautiful. Useful; but, beautiful. It doesn't hurt that I just love Dirk and Lauren at my local shop. Great people. Friends.

I found out we're going back to the Driftless this year. Two trips. I'm going in the May run. Could use the outing. Hope Dr. Don can make it, too. And Jim. Be great if Jim can come.

I am definitely putting together a camping group on the Black river for opener. Several folks are interested either in camping or coming by for morning breakfast before heading out.

Makes me very happy.

Biscuits and gravy. Hot coffee. I'll probably cook both on a gas stove this year just so I can create a bigger warming fire without burning the grub. We'll need a good warming fire.

I could use a new gas stove for groups, anyway.

Something about turning the knob under a big coffee pot and starting the warming-fire when everyone else is still in their bags makes me feel good. I like the smell of a fire in the morning and the radiant warmth of the first hot cup of coffee. I have plenty of wool and down. I'm good for fire-lighting duty.

It's going to be a great opener. Yes, it is six months away.

I've got trout excitement bad. Watch out, it's catchy.